A Brief History of Bernal’s Very Best One-Stop-Shop for Ninja Equipment

You want artisanal meat? Bernal Heights has it. A fine selection of tasteful, high-quality gifts for any occasion? Got it. Equipment to supply a lethal army of martial arts warriors? Bernal has you covered.

Vicky Walker of the awesome Bernal History Project has done some research into the mysterious and fascinating Brendan Lai Martial Arts Supply Co. on Mission Street, and she brings us this report:

Not many San Francisco neighborhoods can claim to host a full-scale ninja emporium. But if you find yourself on Bernal’s northwestern edge, near the entrance to 280 at Mission and Randall, you’ll spot a storefront with a domed frontage and what looks like a movie theater awning.

Brendan Lai’s Supply Co. at 3581 Mission Street (at Appleton) has been in business in San Francisco since the early 1970s.

The business was founded by Brendan Lai, who moved to the U.S. from Hong Kong in the 1960s and rapidly gained a reputation for his mastery of the Seven Star Praying Mantis Kung Fu system. You can see him in action in this vintage demonstration footage:

Here he is in an instructional video:

Brendan Lai taught kung fu and chin-na classes at his studios on Clement and California Street, as well as in Italy, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, and Puerto Rico. He died in 2002.

Today, store manager Al Lai, son of martial arts master Brendan Lai, continues to manage the store, which moved to its current location last year. Al Lai says the family business supplies locals – “practitioners, fanatics, hipsters, and the plain curious” – as well as students and practitioners nationwide.

You can drop by anytime and test out a sword or two, ask for advice on studio referrals, or invest in some bruise medicine, posters, or uniforms. One Yelp reviewer promises, “You’ll be a kid in a kung fu candy store.”

PHOTO: Damon Styer

Where Kids Can Find Sweet Treats in Bernal Heights Tonight

It’s Halloween! So where are the clever kids going to show off their costumes and scoop up piles of candy in Bernal Heights tonight? Here are a few hotspots:

Cortland Avenue will be the go-to place for members of the short set to see and be seen. In keeping with ancient tradition, the merchants of Cortland will be dressed in costume to hand out candy beginning at around 5:30. Quite charming.

25 Bessie Street will host a Haunted Garage. Says Neighbor Annalise, “We’ve created a small but fantastical and somewhat scary totally-homemade haunted garage at 25 Bessie street– open Monday night at 5:00. It’s free of course. Non-scary trick-or-treating for little ones too. Our house is just one block from the Harvest Hills market at the corner of Precita and Bessie streets. Stop by, it’s gonna be spooky!”

Bennington Street (above Cortland) SSArtist says it’s hopping there on Halloween.

Treat Street (DUH!) south of Precita Park gets a lot of kid traffic most Halloweens. As it should.

Precita Street between Mission and Folsom is kid-friendly and — bonus! — flat. Many homes here get a lot of trick-or-treaters.

Anything we missed? Comment below or email us, and we’ll update this list accordingly. Happy Halloween!

PHOTO: Bernalwood’s Cub Reporter on the Halloween beat on Cortland in 2009, with her bestest, bestest friend. By Telstar Logistics.

News Flash: Argus Lounge Closing (Then Reopening)

We just received an important communique here in the Bernalwood newsroom: The Argus Lounge, the beloved dive bar on Mission near Valencia, will soon close. Thereafter it will undergo a rapid metamorphosis to become a new bar called Iron and Gold. Says general manager and “beer and shot dude” Andrew Marks:

We are sad to announce that we will be closing the Argus Lounge permanently as of Nov 1, 2011. As many, or perhaps none of you have known, Amy and Spencer Murray opened up the Argus Lounge in 1998. They retired from the bar business in February of 2011. Since then there has been a lot of planning in to the direction of this place, and finally we are ready to move forward. With that, I hope that you will join us at our newly revamped bar at the same location Iron & Gold. We will be open (hopefully) November 18, 2011. We will be having a kick ass Halloween closing party Monday October 31, please join us in saying good bye to 13 years as the Argus Lounge!

A little about us and our future: I am Andrew Marks, the General Manager and Operator. I have been in the food and beverage industry for 17 years, it is all I have known since I was 14 besides school, and a once upon a time career as a musician. I have been bartending for 11 years, 6 of which have been here in San Francisco. My first job here in The City was at Blowfish Sushi, where I bartended at for 5 years. I also bartended at Madrone for a few years, Salt House, and I still continue to moonlight at Laszlo/Foreign Cinema where I have worked for the last 3 years. I enjoy cocktailing, cocktails, but primarily I am a beer and a shot dude, which will be reflected a lot in the general concept of Iron & Gold.

As for the bar itself, much will be the same as far as atmosphere, staff, and products. We will still have awesome and edgy music provided by several of talented friends and neighbors most nights of the week. Our Happy Hour will still be from open until 9pm where you can enjoy $6 house cocktails, and $3 drafts (all of which are local) everyday. The name itself is a reflection of our great city, San Francisco. Its motto was founded in 1900 on our flag ‘Gold in peace, iron in war’ as a symbol of prosperity and solidarity.

Bonus points for the historical allusion in the name. And here’s the proof:

PHOTO: Michael Calore

A New Novel by Superstar Bernal Heights Author Peter Orner

In the Bay Area section of today’s New York Times, astute readers will find an article about author Peter Orner, a member of the Bernalwood literati glitterati:

Among writers, Mr. Orner is a boldface name. Since his debut collection, “Esther Stories,” was published in 2001 to rave reviews, he has continued to rack up plaudits: a Guggenheim fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and space in esteemed publications like Granta, The Atlantic and Ploughshares. He has also done two oral histories for McSweeney’s Voice of Witness series; Harper’s called “Hope Deferred,” his 2010 book about life in Zimbabwe, one of the most important books about that country in 30 years.

Compared with other Bay Area literary stars, “Peter’s name is overlooked by the general reading public,” said Oscar Villalon, managing editor of Zyzzyva, a literary journal that will be publishing one of Mr. Orner’s stories this spring. “If he lived in Brooklyn, he’d be the type of guy who’d be feted by The Paris Review, The New Yorker. His work is that good.”

Since we don’t want Peter Orner to leave Bernal and move to Brooklyn, perhaps he could get a similar career boost by simply *pretending* he lives in Brooklyn; say, by wearing trucker’s caps and riding a fixie. But his best hope probably lies in the new book he has coming out:

Things could change with his latest novel, “Love and Shame and Love,” which is scheduled to arrive in stores next week. Publishers Weekly called the book “vibrant and captivating.” In a nod to current publishing realities, Mr. Orner is working with a social media consultant, has put out a video trailer that stars Ed Asner and has garnered blurbs from literary stars like Daniel Handler to promote his book.

“It was a book that I had to write, knew I would always write, in some ways resisted writing, “ Mr. Orner said, clutching a ceramic cup at a local coffee shop near his home in the Bernal Heights section of San Francisco. “I definitely put everything I had into it.”

PHOTO: Peter Orner in Precita Park. Photo by the Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen

Wicked Witch Meets Sudden Demise in Pre-Halloween Crash

Witch Misdirected

Tragedy struck on a recent evening in Bernal Heights when a wicked witch perished in an aeronautical mishap. Neighbors reported hearing the witch cackling as she flew on her signature broom, before her cruel taunt was cut short by an apparent pilot error that sent the witch careening into a telephone pole at the corner of Anderson and Eugenia.

“I heard the whole thing,” recalls neighbor Dorothy Oz. “I heard the witch cry, ‘I’ll get you my pretty, and your little do—‘ But she never finished the sentence.  I just heard a whooshing noise, and a dull thud, and then we found the witch wrapped around the pole.”

Representatives from the San Francisco Police, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the Department of Homeland Security are investigating the incident, which has preliminarily been deemed an accident, although experts will also search for any evidence of foul play.

Upon hearing the news, neighborhood youth responded with glee, and at several local elementary schools, teachers report that children spontaneously started to sing the chorus of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead” over and over and over and over again.

PHOTO: Telstar Logistics

Bernal Dads Racing Survives Another 24 Hours of LeMons

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011



Sorry for the delay in reporting on this, but I’ve been catching up on the rest of life after going racing last weekend with the Bernal Dads Racing Team for the 24 Hours of LeMons event at Sears Point.

All in all — and especially by the low standards of LeMons — the race was a big success. The Bernal Dads began the weekend with an unannounced micro-parade down Cortland:

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011

From there it was a glorious cruise across the Golden Gate Bridge…

Hauling Up

… before arriving at Sears Point to set up camp. Once base camp was established, the two battered Bernal Dads cars — The Molvo and The Whale — were wheeled in for tech inspection, which they passed with flying colors.

Tech Inspection

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011

During the races on Saturday and Sunday, the cars performed more or less flawlessly. With 160 cars competing, chaos often reigned on the track. But the Bernal Dads soldiered on, suffering only a broken fan belt and an unfortunate incident during which Sharpie-wielding vandals marred the logo of a certain celebrity-obsessed blog about Bernal Heights:

Damn Kids

Very funny, fellas. Veeeeeery funny.

Luckily, a visiting member of Bernal Dads fan club, Bernalwood’s own Cub Reporter, doesn’t yet know how to read:

Jr. Race Fan

But out on the race course, the action was pretty intense. And if you happened to be sitting behind the wheel, it was even more so:

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011

24 Hours of LeMons, October 2011

Indeed, the biggest problem the Bernal Dads encountered was… me. As the rookie driver on the team, my enthusiasm often overwhelmed both common sense and the laws of physics. Or, to paraphrase Top Gun, my accelerator foot had a bad habit of writing checks that the Molvo and the Whale couldn’t cash. As a result, I managed to accrue an astonishingly large amount of penalties in an impressively short amount of time. For this I will forever be contrite.

But on the bright side, even though I spun the Molvo once and put The Whale in the dirt twice (Doh!), I did not wreck either car, and returned both to the paddock more or less in the same condition as when I strapped in behind the wheel. Which I think counts as a victory, of a sort.

Oh, and along the way, I had a fantastic amount of fun.

When the checkered flag waved at the end of the weekend, these were the final results:

The Whale: 52nd place overall after completing 212 laps

The Molvo: 82nd place overall, after completing 176 laps

So we did not return home with glistening trophies or big piles of cash money. Yet the Bernal Dads managed always to look sexxxy and glamorous, and as we all know, in Bernal Heights, that’s really all that matters:

PHOTOS: Brandon Powell and Telstar Logistics